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“The true beauty of music is that it connects people. It carries a message, and we, the musicians, are the messengers.” – Roy Ayers

 “Musicians should not play music. Music should play musicians.” – Henry Rollins


Some people don’t know this, but before I was a choir director, I played keyboard for my church choir back home. I started playing for the church choir at age 10, and I made a whopping $25 per Sunday. It may not sound like much, well actually, it isn’t much, but to a ten year old who has never made any money of his own, it was a fortune. When I joined my current church, my first actual assignment was to play for a couple of the choirs. I had arrived. lol Not really, but it was definitely a huge blessing and confidence booster to play with all of these great musicians (not to mention nerve wrecking and completely different than the two piece band from back home….me and a drummer). I said all of that to say, I’ve actually worked in the office of a musician in the church. Here are a few fundamentals from my time as a church musician. They all center around respect, for your craft, for the assignment, and for yourself.

Respect Your Craft

There’s no discipline like the discipline needed to play for weekly church services, learning new music regularly, and hoping that you don’t choke when it’s time to actually play it. With the help of my mother, who made sure that I stayed prepared, here’s a few things that I learned as a musician about respecting my craft:

  • Practice early, regularly, and often.
  • Listen to and study church music, outside of the music you’re assigned (praise and worship, choir music, traditional and contemporarary).
  • See your gift as a gift – make sure you respect the fact that not everyone can do what you can do.

Respect the Assignment

It was during my time as a musician that I first learned the importance of being sensitive to the Spirit of God during worship service. One false move, one time of being unprepared, one time of not paying attention could break the flow of the service. Here’s what I learned:

  • Adhere to all “house rules” – know the rules before accepting the assignment. Accepting the assignment is accepting the rules of the house.
  • Be professional – this includes being on time, dressing the part, and limiting unnecessary fraternization.
  • Be ministry-minded – prayer and worship should be a major part of your time, and flowing in the Spirit should be your goal more than the best licks or hits.

Respect Yourself

As I stated, I started out at $25 per Sunday, but I didn’t end up there. Thanks to my parents who did their research, I left home making much closer to the status quo of the time. Here’s a few things I learned:

  • Don’t sell yourself short – believe in your ability, know that you can accomplish anything musically that you set your mind to
  • Know your worth – know what you bring to the table, and know what the going rate is for what you bring to the table. Constantly expand what you offer. Observe and study those who are where you want to be.
  • Expect respect – humility is key, but you never have to be a pushover. You don’t have to allow anyone to treat you or speak to you disrespectfully, directly or indirectly. You are a servant of God, not a slave to the church.

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